The long-term project to remove invasive trees and re-plant native species near Mill and Pack creeks in Moab is continuing this winter.
Crews from Rim to Rim Restoration have cut away large numbers of Russian olive and some tamarisk along the creeks during the past few weeks. Moab Community Development Director David Olsen said the work also is being done to reduce fire danger.
A fire near the creek two years ago could have been disastrous if similar work had not been done previously, he said.
“If they hadn’t thinned the vegetation, the fire could have taken out Bartlett subdivision and done much more damage,” Olsen said.
Olsen added that a fire started last summer near Mill Creek by a camper also could have gotten out of control if not for earlier thinning efforts and a quick response by the fire department.
The most recent work has been along Mill Creek adjacent to Desert Bistro and Pack Creek behind the Utah State University buildings near 200 South.
Financing for employees of Rim to Rim Restoration is through a $31,000 federal redesign grant the city received through the Utah Department of Fire, Forestry and State Lands. The Nature Conservancy recently contributed $5,000 to the effort.
In addition, Rim to Rim Restoration program director Kara Dohrenwend said a $100,000 grant will keep work going until February or March. It’s the sixth year the nonprofit organization has helped with Mill Creek thinning, which has been under way for the past 10 years, she said.
“It’s a combination of working on publicly owned lands, school district lands and city lands,” Dohrenwend said.
She added that some of the current thinning projects are on private land. In those cases, Rim to Rim Restoration tries to get at least a one-to-one match from the property owner, either in cash or in labor.
“If the landowner is engaged in that manner there’s more chance it will be maintained,” Dohrenwend said.
Work is done only in areas of the city and Grand County that are in the flood zone or are preserved by conservation easements, she added. The program is for habitat preservation and flood control, but not to clear land for residential development, according to Dohrenwend.
Removal is done in patches, she said, adding, “We’re not clear-cutting.”
Doing the work during late fall and winter months makes it easier to get workers and provides people with needed income, Dohrenwend said.
She noted that when trees are cut down to the final stumps they are treated with herbicide to kill the roots. That must be done when the temperature is cooler than 85 degrees, otherwise the active ingredient turns to gas and potentially defoliates other plants, Dohrenwend said.
She emphasized the herbicide doesn’t have adverse effects on wildlife or people. “We try to be very targeted with the application,” Dohrenwend said.
Rim to Rim Restoration is dedicated to re-establishing native vegetation to benefit wildlife and recreation while supporting sustainable watersheds in the Moab area, according to the organization’s website.
Past efforts include partnering with the Teen Summer Work Program to remove Russian olive trees in Mill Creek Canyon.